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Spokane Police release video of 2017 shooting of Daniel Craven that was ruled justified

Spokane police arrested a 24-year-old man suspected in a Wednesday homicide. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane police arrested a 24-year-old man suspected in a Wednesday homicide. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The last moments of Daniel Craven’s life were as brief as they were dramatic.

Standing on a sidewalk in the pitch-black suburbs of Spokane’s South Hill near a house owned by his ex-girlfriend – a woman he reportedly harassed days prior – the 53-year-old who had both hands wrapped around a handgun was confronted by two Spokane police officers in the early morning hours of July 3, 2017.

Drunk and high, according autopsy reports, he stepped out from behind a bush where moments earlier, a gunshot was heard. With the brief flare of a flashlight and a quick command to show his hands, officers Kelsey Scott and Caleb Martin fired multiple times within a second of spotting him. He was hit by six shots of their 15-bullet barrage.

Those final seconds were captured on police body camera footage released to members of the media Wednesday. Craven was one of five people shot and killed by Spokane police officers last year, making it one of the deadliest years on record for officer-involved shootings in more than two decades.

For Craven’s brother Michael Craven, the video didn’t provide answers. Living in Portland, he declined to comment on the specifics of the video, instead questioning what he called his brother’s out-of-character-behavior in the weeks leading up to his death.

“He was a super great guy,” he said. “All he did was try to help everybody else.”

According to police reports and search warrants, Craven had been stalking his ex-girlfriend, who lived in the 5900 block of Mount Vernon Street on the edge of Spokane city limits, for weeks. A day before he was fatally shot, the woman called 911 reporting Craven was walking around her property at 3 a.m., then kicked in her front door and pointed a gun at her ex-husband, though police found no evidence to corroborate the story.

The following night, police say they received a call from the same woman at about 12:30 a.m. reporting she heard what sounded like a shotgun going off in her front yard. Scott and Martin, the first officers to arrive, reported hearing additional gunshots, one of which was captured on Scott’s body camera affixed on her chest.

In the video copy provided to media, Scott’s camera shows the officer pacing Mount Vernon Street slowly as she makes her way past parked vehicles. Using her flashlight, she illuminates a parked car for a moment and returns her flashlight to her side. Seconds later, a loud pop is heard as the officer relays to dispatch she heard a “gun go off near that location.”

She continues walking and after about 12 seconds, starts jogging. Exactly 20 seconds after hearing the gunshot, she shines a light on Craven, who police say had just exited an area concealed by shrubbery and a fence, while shouting “show us your hands!”

As she’s shouting, Scott raises her pistol and as soon as she finishes speaking, fires multiple rounds at Craven. Martin, who was behind Scott, also fires multiple rounds and then reloads his magazine.

Craven drops to the ground, his body obscured by a black box that was inserted by police. Scott walks to the left and into the street, gun still trained on him, while repeatedly telling him to “show us your hands.”

“Help,” Craven mutters. “You got me.”

The video continues for another three minutes while Scott and Martin wait for backup to arrive before providing medical care. Craven was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. A toxicology report showed he had a blood-alcohol level of .32 and THC in his system when he was killed.

Captain Brad Arleth, who spoke to media at the briefing, said based on the officer’s reports and interviews, they knew Craven had a weapon before they arrived. He wasn’t immediately sure Wednesday if they could see Craven and the gun clearly before shining their light on him.

“He’s got a bladed stance with both hands on the gun in front of him in basically what was a firing position,” Arleth said. “At that point you’re in a lethal force encounter.”

In their investigation, officers discovered Craven was carrying a handgun, though it was not loaded with live rounds or a magazine when he was shot. Police did find two spent cartridges near the woman’s property and a casing that hadn’t yet ejected.

In October last year, the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office ruled the shooting justified.

Michael Craven, when reached by phone Wednesday, praised the police response that night and understood their reaction to the escalated situation. But he had less-kind words for the department overall, asserting that they’ve delayed fulfilling requests he filed once the investigation was closed.

“We haven’t retained attorneys. We haven’t heard the 911 call. We don’t have the police report,” a frustrated Michael Craven said. “We just want some closure and answers.”

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